Ruins of a house at a village affected by hill migration in Pauri district.(HT File Photo)
Ruins of a house at a village affected by hill migration in Pauri district.(HT File Photo)

Climate change, migration hit farming of 30 crops in Uttarakhand

A study conducted by Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) shows that farming of 30 traditional crops has been abandoned in Pithoragarh district in last one decade due to climate change and migration.
By Nihi Sharma | Hindustan Times, Dehradun
UPDATED ON SEP 17, 2018 05:50 AM IST

A study conducted by Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) shows that farming of 30 traditional crops has been abandoned in Pithoragarh district in last one decade due to climate change and migration.

An ongoing study ‘Conservation of indigenous crop varieties and vulnerability assessment of agro-ecosystem in Pithoragarh district’ reported how agricultural land use has declined to 19% in last one decade along with an overall decline of 28% in the area of cultivation in the district.

As per the study, over 70% farmers in the district abandoned farming of Foxtail millet, locally called Koni. Nearly 27% farmers abandoned farming Flaxseed or Alsi and 26% abandoned Barnyard millet, also called Madira. The study was based on questionnaire conducted across 31 villages in four administrative blocks.

“The major reason for such decline is that farmers no longer perceive the traditional agriculture in the hills as profitable. The outcome of climate change such as delayed monsoon, erratic rainfall, low snow fall, monsoon failure are further adding to the crop failures and discouraging farmers to continue investing on agriculture,” Nehru Prabakaran, faculty at WII working on the project, said.

The agriculture in the district, which shares border with Nepal and China, is mainly rain-fed and is driven by subsistence rather than economy. 

“Migration of the young generation in search of better economic options have reduced the human workforce required for the arduous agricultural operations in the hilly terrain. Also, the increased incidents of crop depredation by wildlife, mostly due to the degradation of traditional practices have contributed to further decline in the farming sector,” he added.

Another important reason behind abandoning farming of traditional crops is the change in food habits.

Cereals and pulses have been replaced with rice and wheat, that constitute the main diet of the people in the region.

“In the earlier generation, people in the Himalayan region were known to include variety of millets in their diet. When rice and wheat become a major part of the diet, people’s interest in millet slowly began to declined. For example, the Madua roti, once common in the hills, are now seldom consumed by the locals. Therefore, most of the minor crops and millets are fast disappearing from the hill agriculture,” GS Rawat, dean and principal investigator of the research, said.

The institute is now planning to expand the study in adjoining districts too. Started in 2016, the research is going to wrap up in 2019. However, scientists are also keen on studying the change in pattern in districts of Almora, Chamoli and Champawat.

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